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Meridian in the News

A safe place for children to find their voices

Mar 11

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Monday, March 11, 2013  RssIcon

A PERSONAL JOURNEY. Patty Covington, Director of the Child Advocacy Center, a division of Meridian Health Services.

WORKING WITH CHILDREN OF ABUSE IS MORE THAN just a job for Patty Covington, director of Meridian’s Child Advocacy Center. She herself was a victim of child sexual abuse.

“I am a survivor,” says the mother of three. “I went into foster care when I was 13. So that has kind of given me my passion. In my opinion, we’re all put here for a reason, and I really feel like this path is just part of my journey.”

She moved from the South with her biological family when she was 12, landing in Indiana. About a decade ago, Covington began her social work career.

The CAC assists in cases of child abuse, offering a safe, child friendly environment in which victims can tell their stories to receptive listeners. Meridian purchased the Morrison Mock School seven years ago and put in carpet that mimics cobblestone, street lamps in the hallways and a tree house in the lobby. Once inside, the story continues in a small 10-foot by 10-foot room, quiet and comforting. In the walls are tiny cameras and hidden microphones.

In a larger room nearby, prosecutors, DCS representatives, mental health professionals, and others pay close attention to the stories of children affected by abuse. Children also may testify via closed circuit in criminal trials. These forensic interviews can make it possible to bring abusers and perpetrators to justice without traumatizing the victims. The CAC is one of four such facilities in the state that are nationally accredited and the only one connected to a behavioral health facility.

“The wonderful thing is that when a child comes in here that has been a victim of sexual abuse or physical abuse, then we can connect them right here with a therapist,” Covington adds.

FACT: In an average Delaware County classroom of 30 students, six children will be sexually abused.

Interviewers are specially trained to handle such sensitive cases, and Covington for one is gladdened. It took a long time for her to disclose her own abuse, well into her adult years, and it is not a subject she broaches lightly.

“The biggest thing that I would like to see from the article is, yes, my background and why I feel so passionately about the CAC,” she says. “But I would like to talk about the sexual abuse that is out there. One in four girls are sexually abused, and usually by someone they know. It’s not a stranger.”

Among boys the ratio is one in six, Covington adds.

“This is just a passion I have, to be instrumental in the lives of children,” Covington says.

“I feel very honored to be here.”

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